Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (2011)
Revelations marks the third and final chapter in Ezio’s story as he travels to the former Assassin fortress in Masayaf (which appeared in AC1), in order to discover the secrets that Altair had previously discovered, and to find the true purpose of the Assassin’s Order. Upon arriving, Ezio discovers the Templars have taken over Masayaf, and that the knowledge he seeks is locked in Altair’s library, which requires five keys to unlock it. The keys themselves are located somewhere in Constantinople, and so begins the ageing Ezio’s last adventure.
Like Rome in Brotherhood, Constantinople (part of the Ottoman empire), is the main city you explore in Revelations. However, along the way you will also get to revisit Masayaf and visit the underground Templar city of Cappadocia. Cappadocia is a stark contrast to the open cities usually found in Assassin’s Creed. Although large, it is essentially a huge underground cave which feels very dark and claustrophobic in comparison to fresh, open cities like Venice and Rome. The entire place is also inhabited by Templars and citizens loyal to the Templars. There are no friends of Ezio’s to be found here, so stealth has never been more necessary.
Once again, the story is strong and may be the best yet. Upon entering Constantinople Ezio meets a young Italian traveller and book collector, Sofia Sartor, who helps him discover the location of each key. Ezio initially keeps his assassin identity a secret as the Templars might target her if she knows too much. However, Ezio begins to fall for her and contemplates whether there will ever be a time when he can settle down and live a normal life.
Not only is Ezio caught out by his own heart but he also finds himself in the middle of a political struggle between Prince Ahmet and his brother Selim who both have a claim to the Sultanate. As Ezio finds the keys, they show him what Altair did after the events of Assassin’s Creed, and how in his old age, he planned for a descendent assassin (Ezio) to uncover what he learned. Although I won’t go any further for fear of spoilers, I will say that this aspect of the story is a genuine treat and a great reward for long time Assassin’s Creed fans.
Although Revelations is a great game in all, and a worthy send off for fan favourite Ezio, it isn’t quite as flawless as Brotherhood and AC2. In general the engine was beginning to feel a little tired and even the die hard Ezio fans agreed that this was the right time to wrap up his story. Some critics also argued that the game lacked any innovation or mechanic that boosted the franchise in the way AC2 had. Two new innovations that were included in Revelations were a bomb making mechanic and, unfortunately, a tower defence mini game. The bomb making was fun but hardly revolutionary. Ezio could make different types of bombs using ingredients which caused multiple effects. Some bombs would throw up smoke, allowing Ezio to disorientate his opponents. Others would detonate when an enemy got too close and could be used to trap enemies and help Ezio make a quick get away, and of course there was your classic bomb that just blew up anyone Ezio threw it at. Whilst the idea was well thought out and executed, with over 150 variations to play and experiment with, the mechanic was hardly game changing. The second “innovation”, the tower defence mini game was not so successful and was one of the main complaints from critics. The idea was that once Ezio had secured a base, the Templars would come and attack it from time to time. Ezio would stand atop a tall building overlooking the fight, and direct his assassins as the fight progressed. On paper the idea might sound innovative but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out and left the whole thing feeling overly tedious, distracting from an otherwise fun game. Multiplayer also returned and fortunately this was as good as ever. The gameplay was tightened and it also had it’s own story wherein the player trains to become a Master Templar.
So Revelations marks the end of Ezio’s adventures, and despite a few minor flaws it’s an entirely worthy send off. If you want to know Ezio’s ultimate fate, and risk shedding a tear, I urge fans to go and watch Assassin’s Creed: Embers, a short animated film which shows Ezio’s final years. With Ezio’s story at a finish, fans eagerly awaited Assassin’s Creed 3 and their new hero and time setting…
Assassin’s Creed 3 (2012)
Assassin’s Creed 3 was officially unveiled via a cinematic trailer in March 2012 and was described by Ubisoft as the “most ambitious” project in the company’s history. The setting was to take place during the American Revolution and our new character was to be a half English, half Native American called Ratonhnhaké:ton, also known as Connor. Safe to say that when screenshots of a fully explorable 18th century America were released, the fan boys became giddy, and a hype train rivalling Assassin’s Creed 1’s, slowly pulled out the station. Once again, the hype rushed over the gaming community, and many predicted that Assassin’s Creed 3 would become everyone’s Game Of The Year. Of course AC3 couldn’t live up to it. That’s not to say the game was by any means a disappointment. It was well received by critics who praised the authentic setting, top notch graphics and improved climbing mechanics. The game was also much loved by long time fans, some of whom compared it to AC2.
The first hour of AC3 doesn’t actually have you playing as Connor at all. In fact you play as his father and, whilst I won’t spoil anything, there’s a great twist to be had here. After a while you get placed in the role of Connor, who at the time is being raised by his Native American mother and is known by Ratonhnhaké:ton. You experience Ratonhnhaké:ton’s childhood as he plays with other children and learns skills which in turn teach you how to play the game. In the first part of this story, Ubisoft eases you into the game, familiarising you with the mechanics, allowing you time to get to know your new environment before all hell breaks loose, which it inevitably does. After losing a loved one to Templar schemes, Ratonhnhaké:ton visits the village elder. The elder reveals to him that their tribe guards a Piece Of Eden (which is part of the aforementioned Apple), and he uses the Apple to give Ratonhnhaké:ton a vision – which makes for awesome playing! The vision tells him to seek out a retired Assassin known as Achilles, (not the Greek warrior!), who reluctantly trains Ratonhnhaké:ton and gives him the new name of Connor, in order to help him blend in with the colonials. So begins Connor’s quest which has him participating in key events of the American Revolution, and sees him meeting historic figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and of course George Washington.
True to form there are several areas to explore, including New York, Boston and the American Colonial Frontier. New York and Boston are (as you’d expect) excellently recreated, and it was genuinely interesting to see the humble beginnings of settlements that would one day be amongst the most important cities in the world. It’s not just the cities that are worth exploring though. The Frontier is a vast sprawling wilderness featuring trees, lakes, waterfalls and small settlements to climb, swim, leap and explore. The cherry on top, however, is the fantastic new hunting mechanic that allows you to set traps and bait for all manner of creatures which you can then kill to either complete hunting challenges or to sell their skins for cash. The Frontier is teaming with animals such as rabbits, bears, elk, cougars, wolves, bobcats and beavers. Getting around is also great fun, as Connor can climb trees and scale cliff ledges just as easily as he can houses and rooftops. It’s not just land you’ll be exploring though. For the first time in an Assassin’s Creed, game players can take to the high seas in a frankly fantastic new gameplay mechanic, where you take command of Connor’s ship the Aquila and complete naval missions whilst battling off other ships in epic naval warfare. Coupled with a fantastic soundtrack Assassin’s Creed 3 is more immersive than ever.
As a young Brit, I was fairly ignorant of the details of the American Revolution, but after playing AC3 I felt I’d genuinely learnt something. You can tell the developers really did their homework just by looking at the detailed outfits worn by the British and American soldiers, and by the replicated propaganda posters seen plastered on street walls throughout the cities. The developers have also successfully trod a fine line in not taking sides with either the Brits or Yanks. After succeeding in staying neutral during a game which was set during a war between Christians and Muslims, I was worried that this story would type cast all the Brits as evil fascists, but in a great bit of dialogue between the American Desmond, and his ally, history nerd and Brit Shaun Hastings, Shaun informs a slightly biased Desmond of the hypocrisies of both sides. You get the feeling that everyone behind AC3 had read up on their history and were determined not to over simplify the war into a simple case of good versus evil.
Combat is once again improved, with fast paced action that looks fantastic, and brutal finishing moves which give a sick sense of satisfaction when taking down a particularly tough enemy. Whilst there is more emphasis on action this time around, the stealth system has also been improved and you now get a bonus for completing missions without being detected, and although it can be very difficult, it’s difficult for the right reasons.
Of course like almost all games, Assassin’s Creed 3 did have it’s short comings. For starters there were several bugs in the game that though not game breaking, were still noticeable, and could at times prevent you getting as immersed as you’d like. Some fans also found Connor to be a less likeable protagonist than the swaggering ladies man Ezio, and I can see where they’re coming from. Connor does seem a more brash and hot tempered character than Ezio, but others may argue that that’s better than essentially getting the same character, however I would argue that Connor is still more likable than Altair. He’s certainly more fleshed out. The story, although generally very good, and certainly miles better than most video game stories, did at times lag a little, and in hindsight Ubisoft could have trimmed the fat. Although in my humble opinion I’d rather have a story a little too long than one that feels rushed, the ending of Desmond’s story also disappointed a lot of people. Of course I won’t spoil it for you, but after six years of waiting, I felt it was a let down and essentially quite forgettable. The only solace to be had is that most people I’ve talked to cared far more about the ancestor’s story than Desmond’s, and thankfully, like Altair and Ezio, Connor’s story is wrapped up nicely, along with all the friends and enemies you make along the way. The last missions contain no action but are specifically there to give closure to the player. Of course once the credits roll you are free to go back and spend hours completing side quests and tracking down collectables you missed the first time around. Now Desmond’s story was over, it seemed we might not hear from Assassin’s Creed for a while. Ubisoft had other ideas though, and a new instalment called Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag will be released in late 2013…
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag – 2013
Black Flag will be set in the Caribbean during the golden age of piracy, and will put gamers in the pirate’s boots of the notorious Edward Kenway, grandfather of Connor. The three main cities will be Havana, Kingston and Nassau as well as over fifty locations to explore by land and sea. The player will also encounter real life individuals including Blackbeard, Benjamin Hornigold and Anne Bonny. Edward will also have his own ship, the Jackdaw, which can be upgraded throughout the game. Gameplay elements such as high points and hunting will return and now Edward can use his ship to harpoon whales. There will also be a modern day story line again and multiplayer will return.
Black Flag is due for release on PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox 360 and Wii U on October 29 in the US, and November 1 everywhere else. It will also be released on the PS4 and Microsoft’s next console, but no release date has yet been given. A limited edition has also been planned, which includes plenty of extra swag for those with enough pieces of eight…
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted”
by Thom Edwards